Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Bulgarian ban on fracking may have to be revised

The Bulgarian parliament recently banned hydraulic fracturing, or shale gas fracking.  Now experts in Bulgaria are according to the Southeast European Times saying that the ban may have to be revised, because it would in reality block all drilling associated with the exploration and extraction of oil and gas in the country.

Even the Bulgarian Energy and Economy minister now realises what the ban means to his country:

Bulgarian Energy and Economy Minister Traicho Traikov told bTV that Russia's Gazprom is currently charging Bulgaria more than 382 euros for 1,000 cubic metres of natural gas, while countries that have shale gas are paying 76 euros for 1,000 cubic metres.
"The parliament's decision is depriving us of an argument in the negotiations with the Russians," the minister said.
Bulgaria, which buys 98% of its gas from Gazprom, could be sitting on 300 billion cubic metres to 1 trillion cubic metres of shale gas, Bloomberg news agency said, citing the Bulgarian energy and economy ministry's estimates.

The ban was passed by parliament by a vote of 166-6 on January 18th in wake of mass protests by environmentalists (supported by Russian Gazprom).  However, there were at least some sane voices in the parliament:

Ivan Ivanov, a member of the parliament's economy, energy and tourism committee and an MP for the Democrats for Strong Bulgaria party, regretted the ban's adoption, but was content that his party voted against the measure.
"Our position is based on several principles -- mainly that energy is an element of the country's national security," he told SETimes. "The efforts therefore should be aimed at ensuring Bulgaria's energy security and energy independence. The prospecting for, and subsequently the extraction of, shale gas can help achieve both goals simultaneously."

Secondly, Bulgaria would be able to reduce its dependence on Gazprom, which, taking advantage of its monopoly, keeps raising the price of the natural gas it delivers to the country, Ivanov continued.
"Thirdly, the competitiveness of Bulgarian goods will grow, as the price of the main energy resource, which is natural gas, will be much lower," he said.
Bulgaria's unilateral dependence on Gazprom allows Russia to play a certain role in the country's political decision-making process, according to Ivanov.
"Gazprom, which is implementing Prime Minister [Vladimir] Putin's geostrategic plans through its policies, knew that if Poland, Romania and Bulgaria start extracting shale gas, the western route of Russian natural gas deliveries will effectively be cut off," he said

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